No wine? No problem! These are the next best ingredients to whine wine for your sauces, soups, and braises.
We rounded up the best substitutes for white wine—alcoholic and non-alcoholic—in any recipe. If you’ve run out of white wine and are wondering what to do, read on for ideas below.
Gin or Vodka
One of the reasons why people add white wine to their dishes is because the alcohol dissolves the aromas and flavors of each and every ingredient and allows them to meld together to sheer perfection (if you’re curious to know why, we’ll get to this in a minute or two).
Some cooks add vodka to their tomato sauce, for example. I’ve also come across a recipe or two for gin pasta, although I still haven’t found the appetite (and the gin) to give them a try.
The key is not to overdo it. White wine has an average of 10% alcohol, straight liquor has 20%, 30%, and sometimes 40% depending on the drink.
How to make it work: Substitute ¼ cup of gin or vodka for every 1 cup of white wine called for by the recipe. Taste your dish; if it’s lacking tartiness, squeeze the juice of a lime or lemon and simmer to incorporate.
Rosé, Vermouth, or a Light Red Wine
If you don’t have white wine on hand, but you do happen to have rosé or vermouth in the wine cooler, then you can definitely substitute it for white wine in the recipe.
The rosé, as this type of wine’s name suggests, adds a rosy color to the sauce of your dish and infused it with a mellow, rosy sweetness. Vermouth, on the other hand, is a fortified wine—essentially, wine with distilled spirit added to it—so it will make your dish’s flavor bolder and richer.
Be careful with substituting red wine for white wine; it won’t work with every recipe. If red wine is all you have, reach for a lighter wine like Schiava, Gama, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, or Sangiovese. Avoid dark, full-bodied wines.
How to make it work: Substitute 1 cup of rosé or vermouth for every 1 cup of white wine called for by the recipe. Give your dish a taste test and adjust your use of herbs and spices accordingly.
Distilled, White Wine, or Apple Cider Vinegar
If you need to add some acidity to your dish and the recipe calls for white wine, but you don’t have any in the house right now, you can use vinegar instead.
Both wine and vinegar contain acetic acid, which gives them their distinctively tarty flavor. Just remember that vinegar is much more acidic than wine, so you must dilute it or your dish will turn out way too sour.
How to make it work: Substitute 1 cup of wine with ⅓ cup of white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or distilled white vinegar diluted in ⅔ cup of water.
Broth With a Dash of Lemon Juice
Chicken, mushroom, or vegetable broth made from kitchen scraps can be a remarkably good substitute for white wine as a cooking liquid. However, the broth adds much more depth and savoriness to the dish than white wine does, so make sure to adjust the amount of salt called for in the recipe accordingly.
Also, the darker the broth, the more it will affect the color of your dish. So use mushroom broth only if you’re willing to compromise on the color of the sauce.
How to make it work: Substitute 1 cup of chicken, mushroom, or vegetable broth with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice for every 1 cup of white wine called for in the recipe.
Diluted Grape Juice
If you need to add white wine for sweetness but you don’t have any wine, try diluted grape juice. Wine is made from fermented grapes; grape juice is basically unfermented, non-alcoholic wine.
How to make it work: Substitute ⅓ cup of grape juice diluted in ⅔ cup of water for every 1 cup of white wine called for in the recipe. Taste the dish; if it needs some tartness, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice.
White Wine’s Role in Cooking
Not all white wine substitutes are the same, and the addition of white wine serves a different purpose in every recipe. To substitute wine skillfully—and without compromising the end result—you need to know what these purposes are.
So let’s start with the textbook definition: White wine is a fermented grape beverage with a light yellow to golden color; a citrusy, fruity aroma; a tangy, crisp taste; and an alcohol content of 5 to 14%.
And no, I’m not telling you all this just to meet the word count for this article. Because now that we have the textbook definition for white wine, we can break it down into several components and understand what role each of them plays in cooking.
The alcohol content. Alcohol, like salt, helps to bring out the flavor of the ingredients in our food, write David Joachim and Andrew Schloss for Fine Cooking magazine.
When you add a glug or two of white wine into the skillet or Dutch oven, the alcohol combines with both the fats in the food and the water molecules in the cooking liquid. Basically, it acts as a carrier of aromas and flavors that helps meld everything in your dish together.
Most of the alcohol will evaporate by the time you’ve finished cooking the dish—but not before it’s served this important purpose. One can only substitute it with other alcohol, be it pink rosé, tawny sherry, or colorless vodka.
The aroma and flavor. The citrusy, fruity aroma of white wine and its tangy, crisp taste add richness to your dish when you use the wine as a cooking liquid.
White wine plays exceptionally well together with poultry and seafood because, unlike red wine, its aroma and flavor are subtle and not overpowering. Yes, it adds character to your dish, but it won’t take up the entire stage as the Bordeaux in Bordelaise sauce will, for example.
Many recipes call for the addition of white wine because it enlivens the dish with inviting aromas and adds a pleasant tang that caresses the palate.
This tang partly comes from acetic acid, one of the acids in wine, and the acid in vinegar. So, substitution-wise, you can think of wine as a more diluted and less aggressive form of white wine vinegar.